By Angelica Casas
SAN ANTONIO—In 2013, Pope Francis declared the 2014-2015 Catholic liturgical calendar to be the Year of Consecrated Life.
At Our Lady of the Lake University, there are many consecrated among us, especially next door in the Our Lady of the Lake Convent. Each month this spring, The Lake Front will introduce you to a consecrated person of the university community, as they discuss what the word “consecrated” means to them.
Providence brought Sister Margit Nagy, CDP, Ph.D., to the United States, and it is Providence that makes her life exciting.
When she was only two-years-old, her native country of Hungary faced the invasion of Germany, under the mandate of Adolf Hitler, during World War II. Until then, her upper middle-class parents thought their two children and the one they expected would grow up to inherit their comfortable lifestyle and have the same life they had. The war changed this.
Her younger brother, who Nagy’s mother was pregnant with at the time of the invasion, was baptized in a raid shelter in fear of their future. They ultimately decided they needed to flee.
Her family lived in refugee camps in Germany until Nagy was 7.
“(The camps) were no place for three little kids,” Nagy said, adding that her family had applied for sponsorship in countries all over the world. “We could’ve ended up in Madagascar or Nigeria, but we were sponsored here, so we came to San Antonio.”
Nagy and her family arrived not knowing English, although her mother had taught her how to read in Hungarian while at the camps. There were no sisters of the Congregation of Divine Providence in Hungary, but here, Nagy was taught by them in grade school.
“I was so scared,” Nagy said. “I was always kind of little, and to be at this place, and to be without my brother [made me more scared].”
Seeing this, the sisters placed her in the third grade with him. She never went to first and second, but she kept going after third.
“God’s call is manifested in the people that represent God to us,” Nagy said. “They could see the potential in these young refugee children, and they were going to teach us.”
Inspired by the sisters that taught her, Nagy, now a history professor at the university, joined the aspirancy to become a sister at 13, right after eighth grade.
Q: You were very young when you joined the aspirancy. How did you discern that this was your vocation?
A: I experienced a call but I “re-chose” religious life when I was at the University of Washington in Seattle receiving my doctorate. It was very Providential. My parents were not really excited about my choice at 13. My father said, “You know, she’s going to keep moping if we don’t give her the chance. That same year in the summer, the sisters (of the congregation) had an aspirant workshop to be there for a week. One of the classes – Providentology – where we discussed, “What does it mean? What are the basic beliefs? How do they use the gospel?” It was one week, but it’s the living of it that helps us understand it even better. I completely chose it as a young woman. As married people say, “you choose that way of life every single day, because life continues to change.” My job is to be faithful.
Q: What differentiates the Congregation of Divine Providence from other congregations?
A: Every congregation has particular virtues. (For the Congregation of Divine Providence), they are abandonment – God is trustworthy. God may call us to things we don’t understand that are there for a reason. It’s an exciting way of life. In Hungarian, there is an expression, “God brought you,” used when people come to see you. It’s exciting to look at the people God has put in my life now. Let me try to uncover and discover why they are in my life now. It is a real sense of partnership. God brought you into my life just like He brought me into your life. Second is simplicity – a focus on the centrality of God. It calls us to be direct in speech and other interactions with people. (The idea of) transparency – I’m going to be the same person with everyone. To encourage people to be with us who they are, not the person they think we think they are. (Third is) poverty. If I can get by with something very small, I will not try to acquire. We can use things but we are not the ultimate owner. If someone else needs it, we give it to them. And (fourth) is charity – people have personal and material needs. We need to help both. These are the four fundamental virtues. They are pillars – this is what’s going to hold it up – however your life may be. I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m truly grateful to have been called to be a sister of the Congregation of Divine Providence.
Q: As an immigrant, you say you feel fond toward other immigrants who arrive to this country. What do you say to them?
A: I think the people who come from other countries will always have a place in my heart. When we were in grade school, my father came to my two brothers and me and said, “This is going to be your country longer than it will be mine.” He gave us the choice to change our last name from Nagy to Nelson. We knew it would be a change but then we wouldn’t be who we are anymore. That’s your choice, too. It may not be worth your hassle.
When God calls you to something, you need to try. God will help. Students don’t see their world can be different from what they experience in their family. Heritage and geography don’t have to be your destiny. There are people in your future who can be counting on your skills.